Mathura Umachandran

  • Oxford University
  • Faculty of Classics
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate

I took my B.A in Classics from Wadham College, Oxford in 2009. As an undergraduate, I already harbored interest in the intellectual history of classics as well as a passion for critical theory and how these both might implicate the activity of a classicist. I wrote a short thesis on Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, focusing on the hybrid nature of her position as author/scholar, and her creative response to the fragmentary state of lyric authors such as Stesichorus and Mimnermus.

I completed a Masters in Reception of the Ancient World at University College London in 2010-11, which offered an unparalleled opportunity for discovering the state of the field of Reception studies and moving outside of classical philology. I wrote a dissertation investigating Christa Wolf’s engagement with Aeschylus and the classical world and the place of classical antiquity in GDR intellectual life. I am broadly interested in the ways in which tragedy is used as a way of thinking though critical problems, especially in the second half of the twentieth century. Therefore, I am currently working on a paper investigating the place of the classical in Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment.

At Princeton I was closely involved in the graduate reading group in reception, where we chose a wide diet of texts to discuss, from Derek Walcott’s Omeros to parts of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. I have participated in two of the Postclassicisms graduate conferences, presenting a paper on time in Sophocles’ Antigone in Princeton and responding to a paper on Federico Fellini as a theorist of reception in Cambridge.

I received my PhD from the Department of Classics at Princeton University in March 2018. My dissertation, ‘Antiquity in Dark Times: Classical Reception in the Thought of Theodor Adorno and Erich Auerbach’, explored how both men developed positions and methods in articulating their alienation from the particular forms of philhellenism that had anchored German philology and philosophy.